Ludeke hails "special" duo
May 29, 2010
Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez celebrate their victory over the Stormers © Getty Images
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke hailed the influence of "special" duo Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez after the pair led his side to a successful defence of their Super 14 title with victory over the Stormers in Soweto.
The Pretoria-based franchise were crowned champions for the third time in four years thanks to a try from man of the match Francois Hougard and 20 points from the record-breaking book of fly-half Morne Steyn. Former Bulls star Bryan Habana and Ricky Januarie crossed for second half tries for the Stormers but they were unable to derail their rivals' quest for back-to-back titles.
Ludeke's men showed their ability under pressure in what was a historic game for South African rugby - a major final of a predominantly white sport being played in a black area in a country where racial tensions still exist.
"I must make a special mention of Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez," Ludeke said. "Those two players, for Bulls rugby, they're really special guys. Their rugby intelligence and the way they lead from the front is amazing. It's great to have them there and hopefully we can keep them for many years."
Victory was set up by the Bulls' strong start, which saw them go 16-0 up inside the opening 25 minutes and Ludeke said the strong opening was crucial to their win.
"The start we had was really important," he said. "Obviously those high balls worked nicely in the beginning. There were some turnovers and the guys capitalised on that. The second half Bryan almost turned the game on its head, but the guys kept their cool and in the end we won."
Captain Matfield said, "I'd like to thank all our fans for coming out here from Pretoria and everyone in Soweto who supported us, it's an awesome day. It's a great day for our country and a special one for us.
"I'm not sure about their guys, but for us, we knew what was coming. The guys were really looking forward to it and they showed that tonight. They came out firing and started well. At the beginning of the season, we battle a bit with the starts, but not today. The boys played really well and with the support behind us it was just brilliant."
Opposite number Schalk Burger also felt the start was crucial as his side came up short. "It was disappointing from our side to give them such a big head start," he said. "We knew they were going to come out and attack us and they did that. They're a champion side so all credit to them. We couldn't get any momentum going and struggled. We're obviously disappointed for losing out in a final, but it's a big improvement for us this season. Hopefully we can build on it for the next couple of years."
South African coach Peter de Villiers will be keen to determine the extent of an injury to Stormers centre Juan de Jongh who was forced off midway through the first half with a leg injury. De Jongh was named on the bench for next week's Test match against Wales but now faces a race to be fit for an opportunity to win his first cap for the Springboks.